People Magazine Investigates Premiered ‘Terror in Philadelphia’ on Investigation Discovery: Air Force SrA Troy Graves Serving Life Sentence for Rape & Homicide (November 12, 2018)

ID Go: In 1998, a gifted Philadelphia graduate student is found murdered in her bed. The hunt for her killer forces police to reevaluate a series of unsolved crimes, turning the city upside down. Will her killer be caught or will he strike again? -Terror in Philadelphia, People Magazine Investigates (S3, E2)

Date of Arrest: April 23, 2002
Offender: Troy Graves, 29, US Air Force service member
Victims: Shannon Schieber, 23, University of Pennsylvania student (rape/homicide), multiple rape victims in Pennsylvania & Colorado
Circumstances: Shannon Schieber was enrolled as a Phd. student at the Wharton School of Business, on May 7, 1998, Shannon was studying for exams when a neighbor heard what sounded like cries for help, he called 911 to report that his neighbor was asking for help, the police arrived but no one answered the door and the neighbor backed off his statement, they searched the property and the neighbor said it could have been outside so they left, Shannon’s brother showed up the next day and Shannon didn’t answer the door, the neighbor told her brother what he heard the night before, they broke into the apartment and found Shannon naked on her bed, Shannon was strangled to death and it appeared she tried to fight off her attacker, police found DNA at the scene, DNA ruled out those close to Shannon, Shannon’s parents were outraged that the man who killed their daughter was in the apartment when the police knocked on her door, but the police did their job right and by the book, a few days before the murder, Shannon reported being followed home one night, she was scared, so police started investigating the stranger angle, perhaps this is a serial rapist, they look into sex crimes in the area, they want to match the DNA to other sex crimes in the area, in February 1999, they got a DNA match, 2 other sexual assaults had occurred but they were coded as misdemeanors, the assaults occurred just a few blocks from Shannon’s apartment, in June and July 1997, two more sexual assaults were connected to the offender bringing the total to 5, the PPD coded these sexual assaults as misdemeanors as well, they downgraded the offenses because it lessoned the load for the police, and made the arrest rate look better than it was, Shannon’s case helped enact change in Philadelphia, if they had investigated these cases, everyone would have known there was a serial rapist, Shannon would not be dead if she knew what was going on, the DNA still didn’t have a match to the offender, in 1997, a sketch was drawn from the recollections of the first victim, they got a new composite, this offender would enter the home, hold the victim down on the bed, rape them or make them perform oral sex, it was about control and domination for this guy and he was also somewhat of a romantic, once they acquiesced, he would treat them like a date, he would get comfortable with the victims, they determined he was a light skinned black male based on information he shared with one victim about his life growing up with bi-racial parents, he was dubbed the Center City rapist, in August 1999, no other cases were reported since Shannon’s murder, the case went cold, the police got a bulletin in 2001 from Fort Collins, Colorado, the offenders modus operandi sounded familiar to the Philadelphia PD, on June 13, 2001, one victim was home when she was attacked from behind and raped, after she acquiesced, the rapist became gentle as if he was a boyfriend, after he left, she called 911, she was his third victim in Fort Collins, they were all blitz attacked, FC police were investigating a serial rapist, a fourth & fifth rapes were reported, he made a mistake and left behind a ball cap at the fifth victims home, Fort Collins DNA was matched to the rapes in Philadelphia, PPD gave FCPD the composite drawing, police received a letter in the mail from the suspect, he was taunting them, in the fall of 2001, the attacks in Fort Collins stopped, meanwhile the PPD started focusing on cross referencing names of suspects with the two geographic locations, they got a match for Air Force service member Troy Graves, he was in Philadelphia, Fort Collins, and now at Warren AFB in Cheyenne, Wyoming, in 2002, the police had the new suspect in their sites, the police learned that Troy was also investigated by the Office of Special Investigations, it was over charges of harassing a female colleague, the charges were dropped but there was still something suspicious there, Graves has a clean criminal record and no finger prints on file, the case was circumstantial, they reached out to Graves to come to the police department and do an interview, Troy Graves and his wife showed up to the Fort Collins PD, the police immediately separated the couple, his wife admitted that he had insomnia and went for walks and drives at night and that honestly she thought he was having an affair, meanwhile Troy denied knowing anything about the crimes, the police confronted him about the rapes in Fort Collins, he denied being arrested for any sex crimes, he denied being investigated by the Air Force, he did not want to provide his fingerprints but a warrant was issued to compel him, the fingerprints were a match, Troy Graves was arrested and booked into custody, this case changed the PPD policies on sexual assault to include how evidence is handled and how the victims are treated and interviewed
Disposition: Troy Graves feared a trial would not go in his favor in Fort Collins, Colorado, he pleaded guilty in exchange for a life sentence without the possibility of parole; Pennsylvania wanted to seek the death penalty but Shannon’s family did not want that because Shannon wouldn’t have wanted that, Graves entered into a plea agreement and got life in prison plus sixty years

Notable Quotes: “We have to change the system but not put people to death.” -Vicki Schieber (Shannon’s mom)

Source: ‘Terror in Philadelphia’ People Magazine Investigates

Shannon Schiebercredit: Courtesy Schieber Family

Shannon Schieber (Photo: People Magazine Investigates)

Related Links:
U. student killed in Center City
Family, friend mourn Schieber’s death
Grief, Questions After Student is Slain
DNA tests clear ex-boyfriend in Schieber murder
Airman arrested in sexual assaults
Center City rapist suspect arrested
Suspected Serial Rapist Arrested
Colo. airman arrested on sex charges suspected as Center City Rapist
Colorado Suspect Is Believed Tied to Other Attacks
Airman trained at VAFB arrested in Colorado sex assaults
Airman’s DNA Linked to Slain Md. Woman
Officials: DNA Evidence Links Colorado Man to Philly Rapes, Murder
Airman Awaits Hearing in Rape Case
Troy Graves: I did it… and ‘I’m sorry’
Serial rapist says he’s sorry
Remorseful airman admits murder, rapes
Admitted serial rapist now will face a charge of murder
USAF content with civilian prosecution of Graves
Serial rapist pleads guilty in Colorado
Graves Pleads Guilty In Philadelphia Rapes, Murder
Victims speak out; Graves gets life
Colorado: Life Sentence For Airman
Airman gets life sentence in string of sexual assaults
A baffling case: The women who loved Troy Graves
The story of Shannon Schieber
Why two mothers back death penalty repeal
A Place of Peace | Bethesda Magazine
Death Penalty Vs. Life: An Issue Of Closure Vs. Peace
Victim’s family moves “from pain to peace”
Investigating rape in Philadelphia: how one city’s crisis stands to help others
Woman advocates repeal of death penalty as part of unconditional pro-life policy
What are Fort Collins’ most infamous moments?
Rape is Rape, Isn’t It? | ProPublica
Rape is Rape, Isn’t It? | The Marshall Project
The Annual Ritual Shaping How the Philadelphia Police Department Handles Rape, Abuse Cases
How one woman changed the way Philly police handle rape
Why is the death penalty discussed in religious terms?
How do you fix a broken system? One U.S. city offers a model for handling sex-assault cases
How a Business Student’s Dying Cries of ‘Help Me’ Eventually Led to a Serial Rapist
Death penalty: Parents of murder victim oppose killer’s execution
Mom of Wharton Student Found Raped, Murdered in 1998 Still Wonders: ‘How Could Somebody Do That?’
Troy Graves | Murderpedia, the encyclopedia of murderers
Terror in Philadelphia | People Magazine Investigates | Investigation Discovery (S3, E2)
All Charged Up | Forensic Files | FilmRise

American Monster Premiered ‘Watch Your Back’ on Investigation Discovery: Michelle Paet Pleaded Guilty to Conspiring to Murder Husband Nathan Paet (August 19, 2018)

ID Go: US Air Force sergeant Nathan Paet and his family appear to live a blissfully normal life – as these never-before-aired home videos attest. But blind greed would bring about the destruction of this loving family. -Watch Your Back, American Monster (S3, E6)

Air Force service member Nathan Paet was shot and killed after opening his garage door as he was leaving for work on December 1st, 2010 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Nathan and Michelle Paet were both from Guam, were high school sweethearts, and had four beautiful children together. Nathan was an assistant NCOIC for the Strike Aircraft Maintenance Supply section of the 757th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada. The couple were struggling financially after they bought a new home in Las Vegas so Nathan volunteered for a six-month deployment to Iraq and Michelle got a part-time job. Upon Nathan’s return to Nevada, he treated his family to an extra special Christmas. And Nathan’s brother Eric Paet paid him a special visit. Eric said the last time he saw his brother, he could sense something wasn’t right. Eric observed that Nathan and Michelle didn’t appear to be getting along and the couple were struggling to pay the bills. As Eric and his wife were leaving, they sensed Nathan wanted to tell them something, but he didn’t.

On December 1, 2010, Michelle called 911 to get help for Nathan who had been shot in the neck and couldn’t talk but was still alive. Unfortunately, despite the doctor’s best efforts, Nathan died at the hospital. Police wasted no time hunting for Nathan’s killer because this wasn’t something they were used to in the Mountain’s Edge suburb. A witness observed a man speed away in a black Cadillac on the day in question. When Michelle Paet was interviewed, she admitted to knowing someone who owned a black Cadillac and his name was Michael Rodriguez. Rodriguez had a police record but nothing violent. When Rodriguez was questioned, he admitted to having a casual affair with Michelle but nothing sexual. His alibi at the time of the murder was that he was sleeping with a woman he met at a Wal-Mart. He even offered up a video of the encounter. Police went to the motel he claimed he was at and they indeed found him on the security camera footage. In the meantime, Michael’s alibi, the woman he claimed to be with, saw the media coverage and decided to go to the police.

Michael’s alibi told police that Jessica Austin asked her to be an alibi for Corry Hawkins and Michael Rodriguez. She was supposed to say she was with them all day. The alibi claimed when the pair got back from murdering Nathan Paet, Jessica burned their clothes in the fire place. The police also learned that Michael worked with Michelle Paet. While the Nellis AFB community was honoring Nathan, the Las Vegas Police Department were turning up the heat on Michelle. She finally admitted to having a sexual relationship with Michael Rodriguez. And at this point, detectives suspected that Michelle was involved with Nathan’s murder. Michelle admitted that Nathan suspected her of having an affair and she was afraid Nathan would leave her. She didn’t want to leave the marriage empty handed. Michelle and Michael started discussing ways to kill her husband so they could cash out on the life insurance proceeds. The day of the murder, Michelle texted Michael as Nathan was running out the door. She set up the ambush that lead to Nathan’s death. Hours after he was dead, Michelle texted Michael a smiley face.

Michelle Paet was arrested on suspicion of murder. The district attorney theorized Michael Rodriguez and Corry Hawkins lied in wait for Nathan to leave for work. The plan was to kidnap Nathan at gunpoint, drive him out to the desert, kill him and leave him. As soon as Nathan opened up the garage door, he was confronted and refused to cooperate so Rodriguez shot him and fled the scene. Nathan immediately went inside his home thinking he was running away from danger but instead he was running right into it. On December 7, 2010, Michael Rodriguez was arrested for the murder of Nathan Paet. Rodriguez was found guilty of first degree murder, Corry Hawkins pleaded guilty to first degree murder, and Jessica Austin was found guilty of conspiracy to commit murder. Michelle Paet was the cold, calculating and cunning planner. She wanted to take the $650,000, go to Guam with her children, and live like a queen. To avoid the death penalty, Michelle Paet pleaded guilty to first degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Source: ‘Watch Your Back’ American Monster

Editor’s note: With a cable subscription, you can download the free ID Go app and watch all of the Investigation Discovery programming at your convenience. And for those who do not have cable, you can watch “unlocked” episodes on the ID Go app including the latest premieres. Download the ID Go app and binge away. For those who prefer commercial free programming during your binge session, Prime Video has an ID channel: ‘True Crime Files by Investigation Discovery” available for $2.99 a month. It’s a compilation of older seasons but totally worth the cost if you are a true crime addict.

In the News:

Michelle Paet sobbed in court as she pleaded guilty to plotting her husband’s death with her ex-lover, Michael Rodriguez, who was also found guilty last week of gunning down Nathan Paet. -PNC News

Michelle Paet had pleaded guilty to murdering her husband to avoid the death penalty. -PNC News

Corry Hawkins, who pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in the slaying of Nellis airman Nathan Paet, was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. -Las Vegas Review-Journal

Oxygen:

A happy military family kept walls up that were soon to be knocked down. Did Michelle’s husband bring his fate upon himself, or was she behind the whole thing? -Michelle Paet, Snapped

Those involved with the case give their input on the verdict and Michelle’s future. -Michelle Paet, Snapped

Michelle Fleck details all the ways Michelle Paet plotted to “get rid” of her late husband, Nathan. -Michelle Paet, Snapped

Michelle’s sister, Melissa, speaks fondly of Michelle. -Michelle Paet, Snapped

An Air Force sergeant is gunned down in his garage revealing an elaborate conspiracy with an unlikely mastermind. -Michelle Paet, Snapped

Related Links:
In Memory Of Nathan Paet | Facebook
Wife of Nellis airman arrested in husband’s death
Wife of Murdered Iraq War Vet Arrested in Las Vegas Shooting Death
Ex-con found guilty in Vegas slaying of US airman from Guam
Ex-convict found guilty in Las Vegas murder, conspiracy plot with wife of US airman
Cheating widow sobs as she pleads guilty to setting up the shooting murder of her airman husband who was left bleeding to death in front of their four children
Wife plotted with lover to kill airman husband so she could claim life insurance
Woman gets life in prison without parole in death of husband, a Nellis airman
Michelle Paet sentenced to life without parole for conspiring to kill her husband
Man gets life in prison without parole for slaying of Nellis airman
No parole for defendant in slaying of U.S. airman from Guam
Vegas mom gets life in prison for life insurance death of husband
Wife of Slain Airman Pleads Guilty to Avoid Death Penalty
Paet Sentenced to Life in Murder-For-Hire of Husband
Woman sentenced to life for killing airman husband
Man gets life without parole for murder of Nellis airman
Snapped: Sneak Peek – Did Michelle Do It? (Season 21, Episode 8) | Oxygen
Snapped: After The Verdict – Michelle Paet (Season 21, Episode 8) | Oxygen
Snapped: Bonus Clip – Prosecutor Michelle Fleck (Season 21, Episode 8) | Oxygen
Snapped: Bonus Clip – Kind Words for Michelle (Season 21, Episode 8) | Oxygen
Michelle Paet | Snapped | Oxygen (S21, E8)
Watch Your Back | American Monster | Investigation Discovery (S3, E6)

Deadly Power Premiered ‘Lackland Military Scandal’ on Oxygen: Virginia Messick Recounts Experience in Air Force Basic Training (July 23, 2018)

When 19-year-old Virginia joined the U.S. Air Force, a superior officer’s sexual abuse turned her lifelong dream into a daily nightmare. -Lackland Military Scandal, Oxygen (S1, E1)

When Sergeant Walker began harassing Virginia, his powerful military rank kept her from speaking out against his appalling behavior. -Lackland Military Scandal, Oxygen (S1, E1)

Sergeant Walker isolated Virginia and assaulted her in an Air Force dorm room. -Lackland Military Scandal, Oxygen (S1, E1)

Virginia fought for justice not just for herself, but also for nine other victims who suffered Walker’s abuse. -Lackland Military Scandal, Oxygen (S1, E1)

Virginia experienced PTSD from the sexual abuse she suffered at Lackland Air Force Base. -Lackland Military Scandal, Oxygen (S1, E1)

Virginia explains the extreme intensity of Air Force basic training. -Lackland Military Scandal, Oxygen (S1, E1)

Colonel Don Christensen left the Air Force after 23 years to dedicate his career to eradicating sexual assault in the military. -Lackland Military Scandal, Oxygen (S1, E1)

Related Links:
Deadly Power: Preview – An Air Force Academy Nightmare (Season 1, Episode 1) | Oxygen
Deadly Power: Preview – The Abuse Escalates (Season 1, Episode 1) | Oxygen
Deadly Power: Preview – Trapped By A Predator (Season 1, Episode 1) | Oxygen
Deadly Power: Preview – Virginia’s Day In Court (Season 1, Episode 1) | Oxygen
Deadly Power: Bonus Clip – Virginia’s Lasting Trauma (Season 1, Episode 1) | Oxygen
Deadly Power: Bonus Clip – Surviving Basic Training (Season 1, Episode 1) | Oxygen
Deadly Power: Bonus Clip – Fighting For Change (Season 1, Episode 1) | Oxygen

A Month in Review: In the News on Military Justice for All (June 2018)

June 2018

Missing:
Disappeared: Stacy McCall, Suzie Streeter, and Sherrill Levitt are ‘The Springfield Three’ who Vanished from Levitt’s Missouri Home on June 7, 1992
Friends, family of missing UMass nursing student Maura Murray hope funds will lead to answers

Cold Cases:
Family wants justice for Army vet found shot to death in driveway
Authorities Have Cracked a Bizarre Cold Case That Could Have Ties to the Zodiac Killer
48 Hours Premiered ’48 Hours Cold Case: Who Killed Amy Gellert?’ on CBS (June 17, 2017)

Fugitives:
Reward Offered for Armed & Dangerous Fugitive: Army Recruiter John Blauvelt Wanted for Allegedly Murdering Estranged Wife in South Carolina (2017)

Continue reading

48 Hours NCIS Premiered ‘Trail of Fire’ on CBS: Holley Wimunc, Domestic Violence, and the Holley Lynn James Act (June 26, 2018)


Friends searching for a missing Army nurse find her apartment smoldering and no sign of their friend. Can NCIS agents find her? -Trail of Fire, 48 Hours NCIS


The apartment of a missing Army nurse was found smoldering. This was the season finale of “48 Hours: NCIS” and producer Jonathan Leach joined CBS News to discuss the episode. -Trail of Fire, 48 Hours NCIS

Holley Lynn James Wimunc 2

Lt. Holley Lynn James, US Army

Fort Bragg Army nurse, Lt Holley (Lynn James) Wimunc, 24, was murdered by her Marine husband John Wimunc on July 9, 2008 in Fayetteville, North Carolina. After Holley didn’t show up to work, her friends went looking for her. They found her apartment had been set on fire but Holley was nowhere to be found. Three days later authorities discovered Holley’s mutilated remains in a shallow grave outside of Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. Her body had been chopped up with an axe and burned repeatedly in an effort to try and destroy evidence. John Wimunc also started her apartment on fire in an effort to hide evidence with no regard for any of the nineteen other families in the apartment building. Holley’s father Jesse James shared that she planned on divorcing John Wimunc after putting up with the domestic abuse for over seven months. It would be the day after she told John that she was leaving him that she would go missing. Marine Cpl. John Wimunc, 23, was charged with first-degree murder, second-degree arson and conspiracy to commit arson. An accomplice, Lance Cpl. Kyle Alden, 22, was charged with being an accessory after the fact of a felony, second-degree arson and conspiracy to commit arson. John Wimunc plead guilty to avoid the death penalty and was sentenced to life in prison. Kyle Alden plead guilty and was sentenced to 44 to 62 months in prison. Jesse James worked with Representative Bruce Braley on legislation that would improve conditions for both domestic violence and sexual assault victims in the military. The Holley Lynn James Act (H.R. 1517) was introduced to the 112th Congress in 2011 but did not pass.

“I didn’t know much about domestic violence. But the thought that he would murder Holley is a thought that never occurred to me. I wish it had occurred to me. I wish for one moment I would have thought maybe he’ll kill Holley or murder Holley. My reaction would have been so different. I didn’t know about domestic violence.” -Jesse James (Holley’s father)

MJFA Link:
Army Nurse Lt. Holley Lynn James Murdered by Marine Husband the Day After She Announced Divorce; John Wimunc Plead Guilty, Sentenced to Life in Prison (July 9, 2008)
History: The Military And Domestic Abuse (January 28, 2009)
30 Domestic Abuse Cases in the Military That Ended in the Murder of Female Partners (2017)

Editor’s Note: If you would like to watch the full episode of ‘Trail of Fire,’ please visit the CBS All Access website, visit the 48 Hours website, or download the 48 Hours app for iPad. The most recent episodes are unlocked on the 48 Hours website and app. If you would like to watch past episodes on the 48 Hours app, it cost’s $4.99 a year. There’s programming dating back to 2005 on the 48 Hours app, including some classics, to feed your true crime addiction.  


Authorities in North Carolina have charged the husband of a Fort Bragg Army nurse with murder after the woman’s remains were found in a brush fire three days after she went missing. -AP (July 14, 2008)


The husband of an Army nurse who worked in the maternity ward at Fort Bragg’s hospital was charged Monday with murder in her death, a day after her body was discovered by authorities. -AP (July 14, 2008)


Rep. Bruce Braley introduces the Holley Lynn James Act — a bill to help victims of sexual assault and domestic violence in the military get justice. The bill is named after Holley Lynn James, a constituent of Rep. Braley who was killed by her husband while both were in the service.


Domestic Violence: Holley Wimunc

Related Links:
Obituary: Lt Holley Lynn James
Second Missing Ft. Bragg Soldier Is Divorcing Husband
Evidence to be preserved in case of slain Army nurse
Authorities suspect charred remains could be Fort Bragg nurse
Fort Bragg nurse sought protection from Marine husband after gun incident
Apartment complex denies access to slain soldier’s family
Slain soldier’s brother retrieves belongings from apartment
Autopsy: Army nurse was shot, buried
Funeral set for Army nurse Holley Wimunc
Vigil planned for slain Army nurse
Fort Bragg hosts memorial service for slain nurse
Wimunc’s father: Daughter ‘never met a stranger’
Family, attorney: Marine charged in wife’s death is innocent
Marine’s parents: Claims of violence against wife ‘unfounded’
Husband, 2nd man arrested in slaying of Bragg-based soldier
2 Marines charged in nurse’s death due in NC court
Marine charged in wife’s death
Marine charged in death of Army nurse wife
Husband charged with murdering soldier wife
Missing Nurse’s Marine Husband Charged With Murder
Dead Army nurse’s husband charged with murder
Camp Lejeune husband charged with the murder of his Fort Bragg wife
Soldier’s Husband Charged With Murder
Marines appear in court in Army nurse’s death
Marines charged in slaying appear in court
Marines indicted in Army nurse’s slaying
Death penalty sought in Army nurse’s slaying
NC to seek death penalty in killing of Army wife from Dubuque
Wimunc Faces Death Penalty
Plea deal reached in Marine murder case
Camp Lejeune Marine pleads guilty to killing wife
Second Marine pleads guilty in Army nurse’s death
Marine Pleads Guilty in Army Wife’s Murder
Slain Army nurse’s dad in war against domestic violence
Death on the Home Front
The Fort Bragg Murders
U.S. Military Is Keeping Secrets About Female Soldiers’ ‘Suicides’
When a Military Nurse Fails to Show Up for Work, Worried Friends Rush to Her Apartment Only to Find her Home Burned & Their Friend Missing
Did a Missing Army Nurse Fall Prey to a Serial Killer Targeting Military Women?
Fort Bragg soldier Holley Wimunc’s 2008 murder featured on CBS’ ’48 Hours: NCIS’
Fort Bragg soldier Holley Wimunc’s 2008 murder featured on CBS’ ’48 Hours: NCIS’
History: The Military And Domestic Abuse (January 28, 2009)
30 Domestic Abuse Cases in the Military That Ended in the Murder of Female Partners (2017)

Video Links:
AP Top Stories: Holley Wimunc
Dead Army Nurse’s Husband Charged With Murder
Marine Charged in Army Wife’s Death
Holley James we miss you
Domestic Violence in the Military Part 1 | CBS News
Domestic Violence in the Military Part 2 | CBS News
Rep. Braley introduces Holley Lynn James Act
Domestic Violence: Holley Wimunc
Did a missing Army nurse fall prey to a serial killer targeting military women?
“48 Hours: NCIS” sneak peek: Trail of Fire
“48 Hours: NCIS: Trail of Fire” preview

Extraordinary Claims Should Require Extraordinary Evidence (June 26, 2018)

National GuardGuest Post by Liz Ullman:

Enrique Costas comes from four generations of dignified and recognized military service. His grandfather’s name is in the history books as one of the first soldiers to join the Puerto Rico National Guard to serve the United States. His father defended this country for 32 years, earning an Air Medal for heroism in Vietnam; his nephew will be commissioned as an officer in the next week and will be going on active duty.

Costas enlisted in the Puerto Rico National Guard in 1988. In 1999 he volunteered to be assigned as a Recruiter, earning top awards and commendations throughout his almost 14 years as the Senior Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge (NCOIC) of the Puerto Rico Army National Guard Recruiting and Retention (RR) Command office in San Juan. He was also selected and participated for seven years in the Puerto Rico National Guard Honor Guard, the team responsible for carrying our Nation’s and Army Colors in the highest of the Government’s activities and celebrations.

He was responsible for achieving monthly production for the three main tenets of the Guard recruiting office: Recruiting, Retention and Attrition Management • Staff resourcing for two Army battalions covering 13 cities • Supervising and mentoring up to 10 recruiting and retention non-commissioned officers.

Costas was a champion in mission accomplishment with the highest integrity and ethics. His walls are filled awards and photos with the Guard’s top-ranking officers, including General Clyde A. Vaughn, who personally commended Costas for his service and integrity. Costas retired in 2014 after Honorably serving our Nation for over 26 years.

The biggest mistake Costas made in his career was simply being on duty during the Guard Recruiting Assistance Program also known as G-RAP, a cash incentive opportunity for civilian soldiers to bring in new recruits. With no direction from Washington D.C.’s Strength Maintenance Division, General Vaughn’s recruiters were supposed to intuit the 60 changes in the G-RAP rules over a seven-year period, while also working to fill the dwindling ranks of Guard troops.

Just before dawn, on an early October morning in 2015, Costas’s home was stormed by six Federal agents and two State police officers, in full tactical gear. Costas thought his family was under attack, and it was – by the Government he had served. Costas was arrested and taken to a Federal Courthouse where he was charged with “crimes” dating back almost ten years, during the days of G-RAP.

Costas is one of hundreds of General Vaughn’s recruiters who have been held responsible for not knowing the G-RAP rules that were never sent to them. And not just held responsible — charged with criminal intent to commit fraud against the Government. General Vaughn, who created and administered G-RAP, and who was administratively sanctioned for poor management, is enjoying full retirement in Virginia and Arizona.

Costas is going to prison.

The government’s “evidence” against Costas and other recruiters does not even meet the standard of circumstantial. In his case, the government admitted during trial to having no actual evidence, but only a “reasonable inference” that a crime could have been committed.

As a recruiter, Costas could not and did not participate in G-RAP. There were no Army regulations that governed G-RAP because the program was run by a private Alabama-based contractor called Docupak. Docupak was essentially incentivized to run a sloppy program, earning a 17% markup on every new enlistment, on top of their contract fees and administrative expenses. This lack of training stands in sharp contrast to how the Army usually operates, with manuals and rules on almost every action and procedure.

The one rule that the prosecution seized on to brand soldiers and veterans as felons regarded the relationship between the Recruiting Officer and the Docupak civilian contractors known as Recruiting Assistants (RAs). When G-RAP began, those contractors were regarded as assistants to the Recruiting Officers. The Recruiting Officers might use the RAs to give that extra push to a potential applicant considering enlisting. The Recruiting Officers were encouraged to ask the RAs to attend recruiting events and help with the finding of potential candidates. The original program outline stated that the Recruiting Officer would provide specifics for each possible enlistment to the RA, including legal name, birth date and social security number. That information was used by Docupak to verify enlistments and process payments to their RA contractors. In later descriptions of G-RAP, the social security number would go from the new recruit to the RA contractor, bypassing the Recruiting Officer, which not a single RA contractor reports ever seeing or any evidence has ever been produced by Docupak that verifies it.

This procedural change has resulted in hundred of indictments and scores of convictions for identity theft and wire fraud. Soldiers and veterans are in prison. Costas, sadly, is on his way.

After the government filed more than 50 felonies against Costas, his defense team could not overcome the wrath of the United States and he was convicted by a jury who felt that with so many felonies filed, Costas certainly had to have done something wrong.

He did not. G-RAP was a tangle of mismanagement; the soldiers who were on duty during its tenure are paying the price of administrative failures by their command. In an internal investigation done by the Puerto Rico National Guard pertaining to G-RAP in 2012, the Investigating Officer admitted that “Recruiters had no formal training on how G-RAP operated.”

Costas and his family had their hearts broken when the prosecution opened with statements calling him a “cheater, stealer and a liar.” He said these words, “pierced the core of his soul.”

Presumption of Innocence or even the “benefit of the doubt” was never given. In the end the Government spent an estimated $100,000 prosecuting Costas and the jury found Costas guilty on three charges amounting to $3,000. Although never having a criminal record and an impeccable military career, the judge sentenced Costas to prison. In the end “reasonable inference” and circumstantial evidence weighed more than 26 years of honorable service willing to sacrifice life and limb.

Recently the United States Court of Appeals for the 6th District reversed and vacated a conviction of an accused soldier involving G-RAP and determined, that the “Government did not retain a revisionary interest in the funds and that it did not exercise supervision or control over the funds”. This decision cannot be applied to Costas unless the United States Court of Appeals for the 1st District, the Supreme Court, or Congress rules on it.

“Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”
― Carl Sagan

The claims were extraordinary. The evidence was missing. And yet, a United States military hero and veteran has been sacrificed.

We respectfully request that Congress or the White House appoint a commission to review the G-RAP investigation, to identify Soldiers that have been unjustly stigmatized by it, and to recommend suitable cases for clemency and pardon.

Related Links:
Stop G-RAP Injustice | Facebook
The Conspiracy Behind the G-RAP War on American Soldiers (March 30, 2016)
If You Look at the Dollars, Guard Recruiting Assistance Program Investigations Make No Sense (July 12, 2016)
Top Ten Problems with the National Guard Recruiting Assistance Program (G-RAP) Investigations (December 15, 2016)
An Open Letter to Congress Regarding the Investigations of the National Guard Recruiting Assistance Program (June 5, 2017)

48 Hours NCIS Premiered ‘Deadly Lies’ on CBS: Justin Huff, The Catfisher & Cooper Jackson (June 19, 2018)


“48 Hours: NCIS” takes you inside the real-life investigation of a marine, Justin Huff, who mysteriously disappeared. “48 Hours” Senior Executive Producer Susan Zirinsky joined CBSN to discuss the episode. -CBS News


Preview: Did a duplicitous online love affair between two people who never met lead to an innocent Marine being murdered? -Deadly Lies, 48 Hours

Marine Corporal Justin Lee Huff, 23, of Camp Pendleton, California passed away January 2, 2006 in Currituck County, North Carolina. Justin was attending the Navy and Marine Corps Intelligence Training Center in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Initially, fellow Marines at Dam Neck Annex of Oceana Naval Air Station and his family considered his absence a disappearance because this wasn’t like Justin. But the US Marine Corps considered it an unauthorized absence and NCIS was tasked with investigating the suspicious circumstances. And during the course of their investigation, they would learn that Navy sailor Cooper Jackson was involved and that this wasn’t a disappearance, it was a murder. Jackson was also attending the Intelligence Training Center and he admitted to impersonating a NCIS officer in an attempt to lure Justin Huff and ultimately kill him. The reason: Jackson’s internet girlfriend (who he had never met in person) told him she had sex with a Marine and Jackson insisted it was rape because she was too intoxicated to consent. Jackson wanted revenge for a rape that turned out to be a rape hoax. As it turns out, Cooper Jackson’s girlfriend “Samantha” went along with the fake rape simply to agree with him, not realizing he had sinister plans.

Cooper Jackson admitted he impersonated a NCIS officer so he could handcuff Justin and trick him into going for a ride with him. Jackson told NCIS agents he confronted Justin about the rape and after Justin denied it, he slit his throat. Jackson basically picked a Marine, any Marine, to exact his vengeance. He told NCIS agents where Justin’s body was and where he disposed of the murder weapon and handcuffs used to subdue Justin. NCIS found Justin and recovered the instruments of murder from the river where Cooper said he tossed them. Jackson was charged with kidnapping and murder in a death penalty trial. Jackson froze when he finally laid eyes on “Samantha” in the courtroom. Cooper Jackson couldn’t even look at her and apologized to the court for his actions. Jackson was found guilty and he was sentenced to life in prison without parole. Samantha on the other hand wouldn’t spend a single day in jail. The investigators discovered she did not ask Cooper Jackson to kill Justin Huff but Justin’s fellow Marines feel differently. They say she may not have done anything criminally wrong but her actions lead to Justin’s death. Huff’s Marine brothers, who served two tours overseas with him, said if everybody was like Huff, this world would be a better place.

Editor’s Note: If you would like to watch the full episode of ‘Deadly Lies,’ please visit the CBS All Access website, visit the 48 Hours website, or download the 48 Hours app for iPad. The most recent episodes are unlocked on the 48 Hours website and app. If you would like to watch past episodes on the 48 Hours app, it cost’s $4.99 a year. There’s programming dating back to 2005 on the 48 Hours app, including some classics, to feed your true crime addiction.  

Related Links:
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Woman’s fake rape story led to Marine’s killing, prosecutors say
Sailor Fell for a Lie and Killed a Marine
Sailor Kills Marine After Lie About Rape
Sailor kills Marine after lie about rape
Sailor admits killing Camp Pendleton Marine
Virginia: Sailor Pleads Guilty to Killing Marine
Sailor pleads guilty to killing Marine, is spared death penalty
Sailor Pleads Guilty to Killing Marine He Mistakenly Thought Was Rapist
Murdered Marine’s family, friends testify in sailor’s sentencing
Virginia sailor to face capital charges in Marine’s death
Sailor who was duped gets life for Marine’s slaying
Woman says she ”feels bad” that her deceit led to Marine’s killing
Brought together by grief
The Search for a Marine who Failed to Show up for Roll Call Launches NCIS Agents into a World of Calls and Texts, A Relationship Built on Lies, and an Ill-Fated Case of Mistaken Identity in “48 Hours: NCIS: Deadly Lies”
Cases they can’t forget: Local attorney details case of murdered Marine in exclusive interview
Catfishing Relationship Between Strangers Leads to the Murder of an Innocent Marine
“48 Hours: NCIS”: How a catfishing relationship between strangers led to the homicide of an harmless Marine
“48 Hours: NCIS”: Investigating the mysterious disappearance of a marine (msn.com)
“48 Hours: NCIS”: Investigating the mysterious disappearance of a marine (YouTube)
“48 Hours: NCIS” sneak peek: Deadly Lies

Netflix Premiered ‘The Staircase’: A Docuseries Examining Marine Veteran Michael Peterson’s Durham, North Carolina Murder Trial (2018)


On December 9th, 2001, Kathleen Peterson was found dead at the bottom of a staircase. Did he do it? -The Staircase | Netflix

Season 1:

1. Crime or Accident? Following his wife’s suspicious death, Michael Peterson speaks about his version of the events while lawyers and expert witnesses prepare for trial.
2. Secrets and Lies: As Michael’s hidden life comes out into the open, defense experts debate if it will have a significant impact on the coming trial.
3. A Striking Coincidence: The defense team is shaken when a suspicious event from the past comes to light. Later, the team visits Michael’s first wife in Germany.
4. A Proseuction Trickery: As the trial looms and media attention heats up, an autopsy report’s wording ruffles the feathers of the defense team.
5. A Weak Case: The prosecution presents its case while the defense strives to cast a reasonable doubt within the minds of the jury.
6. The Prosecution’s Revenge: A witness brings surprising levity to the stand, the judge rules on an important matter, and Michael’s alleged temper comes under scrutiny.
7. The Blow Poke Returns: Kathleen’s sisters pore over Michael’s writings. Jurors visit the staircase at Michael’s home. A vital piece of evidence reappears.
8. The Verdict: Is Michael Peterson guilty or not guilty? The jury delivers its verdict regarding the mysterious death of his wife, Kathleen.
9. Reopening the Case: Eight years later, the possibility that a key witness for the prosecution may have misled the jury could prompt the need for a new trial.
10. The Last Chance: After more experts testify about the questionable conclusions and claims of Duane Deaver, the judge rules on whether a new trial is necessary.
11. Looking for Closure: Following two and a half years of house arrest, Michael must decide whether to push for a plea or risk his freedom with a new trial.
12. Between Anger and Despair: Their faith in the justice system forever shaken, Michael and his family discuss what they can hope to achieve by continuing the fight.
13. Flawed Justice: Michael speaks to a reporter about the reasons behind his plea. Later, Kathleen’s sister delivers a statement of defiance in court.

Source: The Staircase, Netflix

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